I don’t disagree with your analysis, but I have been in the position of looking at all your options and having to choose just one:
Constant four wheel drive, like on my Land Rover Discovery, was the best overall choice for all conditions, including going to your Grandma’s, – except when you actually want to slide.
There is nothing like the sure-footed confident feeling given by constant four wheel drive with tires that suit the conditions. There is no need to think about the need to change to 4WD mode, and you can’t be caught out by a sudden change of conditions, like ice on the road
This choice would not cover fishtailing, and donuts because they are incompatible out-of-control conditions that serious off-road makers and users try very hard to avoid. Good off-road tires are too expensive to scrub like that. There are more suitable vehicles for that kind of fun.
The most difficult terrain is soft deep loose sand. In my experience, all drive modes will sink to their axles and stall in that, but 4WD with wide slightly deflated tires will go further before that happens, and will be the easiest to dig or winch out. Light weight is also very important there, as is the driving technique of always maintaining momentum.
Turbo Diesel constant 4WD with adaptive cornering enhancement (for the highway) and a light aluminum body is the only way to go off road and on the highway in all weather if you are serious. The TD gives you great torque at low revs in a relatively small light-weight engine that can still accelerate fast enough to not embarrass you on the interstate. My Disco has only a 2.5 liter, 5 cylinder very modern turbo diesel engine that can tow 4 tons and confidently go anywhere – except in deep loose sand. It is also much more economical on fuel than the gas models, especially when driven at constant speed for hours on a freeway.
Americans generally do not understand this as well as the Europeans. We tend to think a big V8 is needed for sheer grunt. So much so, that the turbo diesel models were not even imported here until recently.
I know I’d gladly rip the engine out of my Wrangler and put in a 2.4L TD. Chrysler had a crate diesel engine for the Wranglers in the works (an adaptation of the one used successfully in small runs for the old Liberty) but then they went tits up during the finance / bailout bust and the project was completely mothballed. So close!
It really is funny how fine the line between AWD and 4WD is. I’m not going to lie, AWD is great but nobody recognizes the difference until AWD gets stuck.
Why did Land Rover discontinue the Disco anyway?
I thought that too in my range rover classic with fulltime four wheel drive coopers with nice tread till i tried to round a northern michigan curve covered in black ice. the 3 ton high center of gravity sent me spinning I had enough experience in northern michigan winters to correct out on the third rotation but all that suv weight and clearance made a big difference in momentum (not to mention poor gas milage and constant repairs) I have since had a saab 9000 and now have a volvo 850 turbo with limited slip and traction control (never stuck never spun) and now have a second volvo to go with it (v70awd t5 trac control) and I have to be most careful when navigating around large trucks with four wheel drive especially the ones spinning and ditch bound. I have driven in winter conditions sometimes with over a foot of snow on the road and I can say saab’s are good but I have never felt a loss of control or feeling that I wasn’t going to be protected while driving my volvos. Look into the center of gravity and weight issues with suv’s it effects breaking and my range rover never had properly function anti lock brakes although it was made with them the lucas electrics made them intermittant at best. I also like the side impact front and rear airbags reinforced doors ect ect plus 23-25mpg city
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